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Family life, and what can be done to support families, is a key priority for the Children’s Commissioner, who was delighted to be commissioned by the Government to undertake an Independent Review of contemporary family life.

The Family Review will seek to understand children and families’ perspectives on modern family life and will explore the interaction between family life and children’s aspirations and outcomes. Through the Family Review, the Children’s Commissioner’s office will investigate how we can improve children’s outcomes by developing the way public services understand the needs of families as a unit. This Review will also work to identify what is already done successfully in support for families, and what can be improved in current provision.

This month we asked parents of children under 5 about where they go for parenting advice, whether there has been a particular time when more parenting support would have been helpful, and ideas for an ideal family support centre. We heard from around 350 parents, 98% of whom were mothers and 94% between the ages of 25 and 44. This is not intended to be a representative sample, just an opportunity for us to gather ideas for the Family Review.

When we asked parents of children under 5 where they go to for advice, the most popular answer was friends or family, followed by health visitors. Parents also frequently mentioned the Google, social media (Instagram, Facebook groups), the NHS website, Mumsnet and books.

When we asked parents of children under 5 if there was a particular time where more support would have been helpful, the most popular response was breastfeeding. Parents also discussed needing more mental health support in the first six months following the birth of their child.

When we asked parents what their ideal family support centre looks like, the most popular response was play groups followed by baby support, and sensory rooms. Parents emphasized that there should be drop-in services and provide opportunities for parents to connect with other parents. Parents also emphasised that family support centres could provide trusted sources of information on parenting.

Over the next few months, the Family Review team will continue to continue its research on family support and incorporate what we’ve learned through this Call to Action in our report in autumn.

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